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Packers Host Bears in Thursday Night Football

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Aaron Rodgers

Former Baltimore Ravens head coach Brian Billick has a theory: “Once is an occurrence, twice is a coincidence, three times is a trend.” When it comes to the Green Bay Packers, I would agree.

Last Sunday, the Packers were taken out behind the woodshed and whipped 30-22 by the San Francisco 49ers. Not only did the 49ers outplay the Packers, they outplayed them IN Green Bay. Everything about San Francisco’s performance was better than Green Bay’s. What is most disconcerting is that all the concerns about the Packers’ defence might have been justified. The Pack had no answer for Alex Smith and Frank Gore and one has to wonder if they’ll have an answer for Jay Cutler and Matt Forte.

This Thursday night, if the Chicago Bears do the same thing to the Packers, it will be a coincidence. If there is loss No. 3, then it will be a trend and I will start to believe that the Packers aren’t as good as I thought.

Until such time, I’ll stick with Aaron Rodgers and put Green Bay on my Sport Select ticket. By the way, I did not have a Sport Select winner last week. That’s because The Coach went 9-7 straight up and 5-11 against the spread.

Of course, The Coach could have been worse. He could have been The Doc. I will let the Doc explain it himself: “Last week the Doc was a dismal 7-9 and 3-13 against the spread.” Thanks Doc. Dismal is our word of the day.

Here’s a look at Thursday night’s Bears-Packers extravaganza at Lambeau Field.

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Jay Cutler: This is a big night.

Chicago Bears (1-0) at Green Bay Packers (0-1)
Line: Packers by 6.

The Doc says: “Green Bay looked bad on defense in last week’s loss to the 49ers at home. Chicago looked great against a Colts team that was out to prove that they were back. The running duo of Matt Forte and Michael Bush looked impressive plus Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall were completely in sync. If a marginal talent like Alex Smith was able to pick apart Green Bay’s secondary, just think of what Cutler can do with Marshall!” The Coach says: “I’m not betting against the Packers at home until it becomes a trend.”

THE DOC: TAKE THE BEARS TO WIN.

THE COACH: TAKE THE PACKERS TO WIN AND COVER.

360 winnipeg2 300x270 Packers Host Bears in Thursday Night Football(Watch Scott Taylor and the legendary Voice of the Jets Curt Keilback on Major Misconduct, the 360 Winnipeg Sports Report at www.360winnipeg.ca and listen to Scott Taylor every Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. on NCI FM and Streetz 104.7 FM in Winnipeg, every Wednesday morning at 10:05 CST on The TEAM 1260 in Edmonton, every Thursday this fall with Boomer and Andrew Walker and Pools & Props at 7:45 a.m. MDT on The FAN 960 in Calgary, with Marty York  regularly on the York Report at nextsportstar.com and with Eric Nelson on The Big 8-3-0 WCCO in Minneapolis and at Minnesota Score Radio on ESPN 660. Scott can also be seen on “The Huddle” Football Show, weekly on Shaw TV and on Safeway Goldeyes Baseball Broadcasts on Shaw all across Manitoba. You can also read Scott at goldeyes.com, thehuddle.co, fantrax.com, manitobascore.com, Jewish Post & News, Senior Scope and Boomer Buzz, ChristianWeek Magazine, One Magazine, Seven Magazine and at Grassroots News.)



All You Need To Know About Week 1 in the NFL

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Tom Brady, Awesome Again.

Before Dr. Football and I take on Week 2 in the NFL — our picks will be posted by Friday — we need to take stock of Week 1.

This week, as always, we learned 10 things:

1. The Baltimore Ravens and Chicago Bears made statements: “You guys can be madly in love with the Steelers and Packers if you wish, but we aren’t going to roll over and die.”

2. Tom Brady is still remarkable. His 99-yard TD pass to Wes Welker was jaw-dropping. The game itself was jaw-dropping. Brady and Miami’s Chad Henne combined to become the first duo of quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for 500 yards and 400 yards in a single game.

3. Despite what ESPN did by ripping Tim Tebow in order to help enable new Broncos GM John Elway to go with Kyle Orton, how long will it take before the Broncos finally go with the guy who wins as opposed to the guy who looks good losing?

4. The Detroit Lions might be legitimate.

5. Michael Vick could have a monster year. Matt Schaub and Phillip Rivers will be very good.

6. Three teams passed for more than 400 yards — and lost.

7. So much for all the whining about the new kickoff rule. Here’s the headline: “Three kickoff return touchdowns in Week 1 tied for the most in an opening weekend in NFL history (1970, 1998).” Looks like a good rule.

8. Like offence? There was a grand total of 7,842 net passing yards in Week 1. The most in a single week in NFL history. There were 14, 300-yard passers in Week 1, the most in a single week in NFL history.  The previous best was 13 in Week 10 of last year. And there were five games in which both quarterbacks threw for at least 300 yards, the most in any week in NFL history. Four 400-yard passers was the most in a single week in NFL history.

9. Carolina rookie quarterback Cam Newton had 422 passing yards, the most ever by a player making his NFL debut.

10. San Francisco’s Ted Ginn  Jr. became the 12th player in NFL history to return a kickoff (102 yards) and a punt (55 yards) for a touchdown in the same game.  Ginn accomplished the feat in just 59 seconds — the fastest in history.

Baltimore 35 Pittsburgh 7

The Ravens Joe Flacco threw three touchdown passes while runningback Ray Rice rushed for 107 yards and two TDs.

Chicago 30 Atlanta 12

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Brian Urlacher, Chicago Bears

Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher had an interception and returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. If the Bears defence continues to rock, it will take pressure off Jay Cutler – who passed for 312 yards in the opener – and his offence. That will make the Bears a much better all-around football team. By the way, RB Matt Forte was brilliant once again and a strong running game will always work in a team’s favor.

Houston 34 Indianapolis 7

The Texans backup runningback Ben Tate rushed for 116 yards and a touchdown as Indy played without Peyton Manning. And without Peyton Manning, they were downright horrendous.

Cincinnati 27 Cleveland 17

The Browns fell asleep on defense late in the game and blew a 17-13 lead late. Cincinnati’s Cedric Benson carried 25 times for 121 yards and a touchdown.

Jacksonville 16 Tennessee 14

The Jags’ Maurice Jones-Drew rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown.

Buffalo 41 Kansas City 7

Kansas City was 11-5 last year and won the AFC West but Buffalo sauntered into K.C. and scored 40 points in a season opener for the first time since 1992. Fred Jackson carried for 112 yards for the Bills.

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Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles

Philadelphia 31 St. Louis 13

The Eagles Michael Vick was terrific. He threw two touchdown passes and ran for 98 yards. He now has 4,728 rushing yards, second most in the history of the game, behind only Randall Cunningham (another Philly QB) who had 4,928. Vick should break that record by Week 4.

Detroit 27 Tampa Bay 20

The Lions Matthew Stafford threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns. The Lions defense was very good, as expected. But the important thing for Detroit was that they beat a decent team on the road.

Arizona 28 Carolina 21

Arizona’s Kevin Kolb threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns while Carolina rookie Cam Newton threw for 422 yards and two TDs and ran for another touchdown. This one was all about Newton, even in defeat. The guy is going to be great if the Carolina coaches don’t screw with his game.

San Diego 24 Minnesota 17

The Chargers scored the final 17 points and the only 17 points of the second half as San Diego came back from a 17-7 halftime deficit.

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The Niners Ted Ginn headed to the end zone.

San Francisco 33 Seattle 17

Ted Ginn Jr. returned a kickoff 102 yards for a touchdown, then returned a punt 55 yards for a touchdown, all in a minute’s span in the fourth quarter to give the Niners the win.

Washington 28 NY Giants 14

The Redskins Rex Grossman threw for 305 yards and two touchdowns.

SUNDAY NIGHT

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Mark Sanchez, New York Jets

NY Jets 27 Dallas 24

The Jets were down 14 points in the fourth quarter and came back to win AT Dallas. Nick Folk kicked a 50-yard field goal to win in with 27 seconds left. The Jets Mark Sanchez was 26-for-44 for 335 yards and two touchdowns.

MONDAY NIGHT

New England 38 Miami 24

Wow! What a night for Tom Brady. He was 32-for-48 for a franchise-record 517 yards and four touchdowns. Wes Welker had eight catches for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Miami’s Chad Henne completed 30-of-49 passes for 416 yards and two TDs (see above).

Oakland 23 Denver 20

The highlight of the game came from Oakland kicker Sebastien Janikowski who booted an NFL record-tying 63-yard field goal. Only Tom Dempsey and Jason Elam have matched that distance. By the way, when is Denver going to realize that QB Kyle Orton can’t win.

This week our three biggest games are: Chicago at New Orleans, as the Bears take on a 2010 playoff team for the second straight week; San Diego at New England in a battle of high-powered offenses; and Philadelphia at Atlanta as Mike Vick goes back to his original NFL home.



I Believe Favre Will Be in Minnesota. Tomlinson? Not so Much.

On the bright side for Minnesota Vikings fans, the Vikes should get quarterback Brett Favre back.

It’s true, if you believe Larry Fitzgerald Sr., the sports editor of the Minneapolis Spokesman-Recorder, who looked me right in the eye last Sunday on press row at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul and said, “Yeah, he’ll be back. Of course, he’ll be back.”

That’s the good news for Vikings (and, yes, I believe Larry because he probably has the best NFL contacts of any media guy in, well, maybe the world).

Now the bad news. After losing versatile runningback Chester Taylor to the Chicago Bears, it’s very likely the Vikings won’t get veteran LaDainian Tomlinson either.

Tomlinson, who was released by the San Diego Chargers after an injury-plagued 2009 season, visited with the Vikings on Wednesday night and Thursday morning and then moved on to visit with the New York Jets.

And the Jets didn’t spend any time fooling around.

After visiting New York on Thursday evening and Friday morning, Tomlinson had planned to return home to San Diego on Friday afternoon. But the Jets convinced him to stay and according to fanhouse.com, Tomlinson, 30, will be offered a two-year $5 million contract that could be made even sweeter with as much as $3.5 million in incentives.

Tomlinson, who ranks eighth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list with 12,490 yards and second with 138 career rushing touchdowns, told the Jets he would go back to San Diego on Friday night, speak with his wife and make a decision. It’s likely he’ll choose the Jets where he will be the No. 1 back. He will not be No. 1 in Minnesota. That role belongs to Adrian Peterson and it isn’t going to change soon.

However, Tomlinson told reporters in the Twin Cities on Friday: “This is not the end of the road at all. I’m not retiring. So I am very excited. I really believe I am going to have that opportunity to win a championship.”

With Favre back, the Vikings are certainly as much a threat to win it all as the Jets next season. When it comes to acquiring Tomlinson as a No. 2 back, Favre is probably the only thing the Vikes have in their favor.

*               *            *

8:30 a.m., Sunday, May 14: The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that it is “100 per cent certain,” that LaDainian Tomlinson will sign with the New York Jets.



Favre Spectacular. Rice Wonderful. Defence Solid. Vikings Ready for Post-Season.

MINNEAPOLIS — While the Indianapolis Colts were blown out again and the New Orleans Saints lost their third straight, the Minnesota Vikings prepared for the NFL post-season by destroying the New York Giants.

A final score of 44-7 is one thing. The surgical beauty of Sunday’s evisceration of the Jints was even more impressive, now that the post-season looms.

And there is no doubt that the Vikes are ready for the post-season. On Sunday, Favre completed 25 of 31 passes for 316 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions and an eye-popping 148.7 passer rating. He was replaced by Tarvaris Jackson with the Vikings leading 41-0 with 4 minutes, 39 seconds left in the third quarter.

The four touchdown passes tied Favre’s season high, and it was the sixth time he’s thrown for 300-plus yards this season. Since the end of the first half at Chicago last Monday night, Favre put up 71 points in a little more than four quarters. He completed 46 of 62 passes for 601 yards, six touchdowns and no INTs.

Funny, but it appears the mainstream media has forgotten the bullshit story it created two weeks ago, suggesting there was dissent in Minnesota. The big numbers have chased the fiction away.

Meanwhile, Favre’s brilliance — along with the brilliance of Chester Taylor, Visanthe Shiancoe, Sidney Rice, Bernard Berrian, the offensive line and a defence that appears to be adjusting to the loss E.J. Henderson –  provided the Vikings faithful fans, the 65,000 that sell out Mall of America Field at the Metrodome every single week, with something to get all giddy about.

Now that’s professional sports.

There was no coaching scared, no worry that precious Brett might get his undies dirty. This wasn’t the candy-assed approach of the lily-livered Indianapolis Colts (have they returned the ticket money from Week 15′s dishonorable debacle yet?). Vikes head coach Brad Childress sent the playoff-bound Vikings out to win a football game on Sunday and he got all $12.5 million worth out of his 40-year-old quarterback.

“It would appear that we picked up right where we left off (in the second half in Chicago),” Favre said during his post-game news conference. “I thought that what we did at the start of the game was what we needed to do. I think it’s proof of what we are capable of doing. For whatever reason we have been inconsistent at times. I think there were 20 first downs in the first half and 22 in the second half of last week’s game. That’s 42 first downs in a game or so. Not that you would expect that all of the time, but that’s what we are capable of doing.”

Nobody is quite sure what some of the other playoff-bound teams are capable of doing. The Colts, the team that threw Game 15 and allowed the New York Jets to eliminate the Houston Texans from the playoffs, were just brutal for the second straight week. Fact is, the Colts were  lucky to get past such powerhouse teams as Jacksonville (the Colts beat the Jags 14-12 and 35-31), Miami, Baltimore, New England and San Francisco, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be ready for anyone in two weeks time.

In fact, by the time the Colts play a post-season game (on Jan. 16 or 17), they will not have won since Dec. 17.

Of course, it could be worse. The New Orleans Saints have lost three straight and when they play again on Jan. 16 or 17, they will not have won a game in five weeks. The Colts and Saints will essentially be starting a new season (and not just in the hyperbolic sense) when they play their next game.

Meanwhile, Philadelphia, Cincinnati and Arizona were dreadful this week, but while Arizona played nobody in the butt-kicking they took at home against Green Bay, the Eagles went all-out in the 24-0 shellacking they received in Dallas while the Bengals played all their stars in that 37-0 whooping they suffered in New York.

Right now, the best teams in the NFC are Minnesota, Dallas and Green Bay while the best teams in the AFC are San Diego, Baltimore and the Jets.

And if anybody suggests even for one second that the signing of Brett Favre was a mistake — no matter what happens in the playoffs — then that person knows absolutely nothing about football or professional sports. Favre is spectacular and the Vikings are great to watch.



The Great Thing About Sport: The Idiots Guarantee That There is Never A Dull Moment.

It’s been another wonderful week in the world of sports. A fake World Cup soccer game, a big story that wasn’t and a fine that sends a message — the wrong one.

1) Last weekend, just before the Cincinnati Bengals improved to 7-2, the National Football League fined the uproariously funny Chad Ochocinco (Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ochoNFLcinco85) $20,000 for waving a dollar at a referee.

Now, the incident that got Ochocinco fined was meaningless — and, of course, funny. During a review of an Ochocinco completion, the receiver waved the bill in the official’s direction, obviously attempting to buy the “right” call.

The NFL didn’t like it much and levied the fine, but it’s not what Ochocinco did as much as what the NFL did that’s scary. If waving a dollar bill near a referee gets a player a $20,000 fine, the the NFL is more worried about the integrity of the officials than putting its stamp on the handle, the No Fun League.

If that kind of thing gets a player a fine, I’d be worried that the NFL is so nervous about its officials that it fears the same thing I do — many of the games are pre-determined in the officials’ locker room.

2) We’ve all seen or heard of Thierry Henry’s hand ball by now. The great French striker grabbed a ball near the goal, dropped it to his feet and set up William Gallas with the goal that sent France to the World Cup and Ireland to the sidelines.

Henry, one of the classiest athletes in sport, admitted his foul and agreed the game should be replayed, but FIFA said, ‘No,” because it had to uphold the integrity of the games played and the officials’ decisions.

That’s a crock of course, but it’s typical. Sport organizations go to the wall for their officials even though nothing lets sports organizations down more than bad officiating.

The no-call call on the obvious hand ball was frighteningly bad (everyone in the stadium saw it except the officials) and it called for only one solution: replays.

To be fair, officials make mistakes. But when they make mistakes at absolutely crucial moments, they need help. And when they’re too stubborn to change their minds on the field, they’d better get all the help they can muster.

It’s time for replays in all sports. Period.

3) The Globe and Mail reported this week that the Phoenix Coyotes could lose $50 million this year. That was supposed to be a story that illustrated how bad things have become in the desert. Only one problem. A loss of $50 million would be a good year for the Coyotes.

As court documents showed last summer, the Coyotes have lost $389 million in the last five years. That’s an average of $77.8 million per season.

A loss of only $50 million would be a fabulous year for that franchise and a feather in the cap of Coyotes president Doug Moss.

4) And in closing, the Chicago Bears refused to talk to the media this week.

Naturally, the media had a collective cry-fest. It’s fun watching grown men act like children.

In the fractured media world of today, to demand that someone speak to you is ridiculous. To think one media outlet is more valuable or more important than any other, is simple arrogance.

For years, we’ve heard the misguided suggestion that without the media no one would care about these teams and back in the day that might have a small ring of truth to it. But the world is much, much different now. If teams aren’t going to allow bloggers and on-line news services into the inner sanctum, why should they give newspapers with circulations that are plummeting, special treatment?

It’s probably in the Bears best interest to just shut up for the rest of the season. The media, meanwhile, should have enough ability to fend for itself.



I don’t like ‘em. I’m sorry, but I just don’t like ‘em.

I have to admit, I don’t like sports officials at the best of times. I believe that there is no one anywhere who can referee anything properly at anytime.

My battles with basketball referees, subjective sport judges (every subjective sport judge on the planet, doesn’t matter if it’s figure skating or gymnastics, is crooked) and hockey officials have become legendary and, for the most part, I’m not proud of many of them.

 

However, I have no remorse. Everytime I yelled at an official, he deserved it. Every technical foul I took, I rejoiced in it.

 

Among my favourite shots directed at umpires have come from baseball fans. Here’s one from a well-known New York heckler named Bill Ferraro. This was a man who hated umpires almost as much as I do: “Hey, Blue! How about using some Windex on that glass eye!”

 

And another: “Hey Blue! I’ve had better calls from my ex-wife!”

 

And one of the greatest of them all: “Hey Ump!!! Damn good thing you don’t have three choices!”

 

Ferraro’s heckling brilliance was first chronicled by the New York Daily News. The Daily News loved this one: “Hey Blue! Don’t ever think about donating your eyes to science. They don’t want ‘em!!!”

 

Then there was this classic: “Can I pet your seeing eye dog after the game!”

 

And this one: “Come on Blue!!! Pull the good eye out of your pocket!”

 

Oh yeah, and this one: “Lenscrafters called…they’ll be ready in 30 minutes!”

 

Now, that’s harsh. But true.

 

This past weekend, I sat in my big-ass easy chair and spent almost 20 hours screaming at the TV.

 

First of all, we got dreadful homeplate umpiring in the ALCS. I know EVERYBODY loves the Boston Red Sox, but you can only squeeze the strike zone so far until somebody notices. I noticed. I threw things. I really didn’t care all that much if Tampa won the ALCS, but the freakin’ homeplate umpires made me cheer out loud for the Rays. Good on ‘em, Tampa got screwed and still prevailed.

 

Not so for the Minnesota Vikings in Chicago on Sunday. A second-half pass interference call in the end zone that resulted in first-and-goal at the one instead of loss-of-ball-on-downs, fried my shorts. By no definition — and I am reading the NFL rulebook as I write — was that pass interference. Two players fell down. Period. It cost the Vikings the football game.

 

That call was so bad, in fact, it appeared as if the fix was in. If crooked NBA ref Tim Donaghy went to jail, that whole NFL officiating crew in Chicago yesterday should have been locked up. If was as if they all had the Bears on their Vegas parlay ticket. 

 

Gawd, I can still smell that gas bomb.

 

Officiating in every sport is generally awful. Frankly, it should all be done in the booth, with video replay. 

 



Things that make you go, hmmmmmm….

On an almost daily basis, someone in the American media will write a column hailing 2008 as being, perhaps, sport’s greatest year.

 

From Nadal’s muscular win at Wimbledon to Tiger’s gimpy victory at Torrey Pines, the American media believes it isin the midst of actually living sport’s “Good ol’ days.”

 

Which, of course, may very well be true. But for all the wonderful stories — the Giants Super Bowl win, the Red Wings dominant Stanley Crown, the Celtics old school win over the Lakers in the NBA final and the emergence of Manny Pacquiao of the Philippines as the greatest pound-for-pound boxer on the planet — 2008 has also left us with enough goofiness to fill a book.

 

Of course, it wouldn’t be a novel, ’cause you can’t make this crap up… 

 

Canseco a Bashed Brother

 

Jose Canseco took steroids, fought with wives, wrote a couple of interesting books and hit a load of home runs, but he wasn’t ready for the fight he got in Atlantic City last weekend. 

 

The 6-foot-4 former tater pounder from Miami who calls himself, “a martial arts specialist” was knocked into next week by 5-foot-9, former Philadelphia Eagles kick returner Vai Sikahema, in the first round, no less, of their celebrity boxing match at an Atlantic City casino.

This fight wasn’t fair. Sikahema, who doubles as a sportscaster, has had more than 80 fights as an amateur boxer while, based on his history Canseco has only had a couple of bar grawls.

Apparently, Juiced and Juiced II didn’t sell all that well. Jose apparently needed an extra payday. The shot to the head he took from Sikahema wasn’t likely as embarrassing as the fact Canseco found himself in this predicament in the first place.

Favre denied Release. 

After watching Brett Favre’s interview with Fox’s Greta van Susteren on Monday night, it became apparent that saying, “Sport is a business,”is just a pleasant way of saying, “We really want to screw over a guy, but hey it’s just business, nothing personal.” I experienced that sentiment first-hand in the media business and if people just wanted to tell the truth they’d say, “We want to screw over the guy because we can.”  

Sure, Favre screwed up his retirement deal, but let’s be honest with each other: Did we ever believe for a second that he was really going to retire? The last pass he threw in that playoff game against the Giants, the one that was intercepted, was never going to be the final pass he threw as an NFL quarterback. Never. Favre was coming back and one senses that the Packers expected he’d be coming back, too.

So favre decides he wants to come back — as everyone expected he would — and now the Packers say, we’ve decided to go another way and have maded Aaron Rodgers the No. 1 quarterback. Favre says, “Hey, no problem, give me my release and I’ll be on my way.” But then, the Packers come back with some nonsense about “preserving Brett’s legacy,” and say, “We they don’t plan to grant Brett the release he is seeking from his contract but we are committed to Aaron Rodgers as the starter.” Oh, oh.

GM Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy went on to tell AP: “We’ve communicated that to Brett, that we have since moved forward. At the same time, we’ve never said that there couldn’t be some role that he might play here. But I would understand his point that he would want to play.”

Yeah, right. If these guys truly believed Aaron Rodgers was any good, they’d release Favre and let Rodgers take the ball and, well, run with it, metaphorically. Instead, they aren’t sure about Rodgers and even less sure about Favre, so they’ll cover their behinds and make sure Favre doesn’t go anywhere. Especially to a place like Chicago or Minnesota where he could come back and bite them in the ass.

Don’t ever believe for one split second that the Packers care about Brett Favre’s legacy. The Packers care about the Packers and the team’s coach and GM care about themselves first and their veteran quarterback a distant second — as all football men do. In the greatest of team games, there is no one more selfish than a football executive.

If the boys in Green Bay really cared about Brett Favre, they’d either announce he’s their starter or they’d let him go. After all, he’s earned it. He’s played hurt. He played after his dad died. As one scribe suggested, “He’s always played for the moment, not the money. There are bits and pieces of his body all over Lambeau Field.”

After what Favre has accomplished in Green Bay, he should have the right to determine his own future. If the people who run the Packers decide that he’s no longer in their plans, they should act like human beings, not dicks, and just let him go. Or, at least, they should make a legitimate effort to trade him, an effort they don’t appear to be making.

Why All-Star Games are a Waste.

Personally, I love Major League Baseball’s all-star game.

In fact, one of the wonderful things about the great game of baseball is that its all-star games are exactly as advertised – real games, played at the highest level of skill.

 

Football and hockey all-star games just aren’t the same because no one wants to get hurt in a game that doesn’t matter in the standings so the inherent violence that sports fans love is all but removed from the equation. Basketball all-star games don’t work because, hey, who really wants to play defence?

 

But baseball? Baseball is different. The nature of the game alone is an invitation to get out onto the diamond and give it your best shot. Throw it, catch it, hit it. Ballplayers love to show the fans how well they play and when it’s all-star time, those stars shine.

 

“You wanna see an unhittable slider? Watch this!”

 

“You wanna see if I can hit it in the river? Well then, show me the cheese, meat!”

 

However, to make an all-star baseball game truly great, you have to have real all-stars in the game. This year, MLB has, as they say, dropped the ball.

 

No Diasuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox ace, who has overcome injuries and even gone back to A-ball to rehab, is now 10-1 with a 2.65 earned run average. That’s an all-star, but he wasn’t selected to play in the game.

 

No Kyle Lohse. One of three aboriginal Americans in the Majors, Lohse is having a remarkable comeback season. He’s 11-2 with a 3.39 ERA and is one of the big reasons the Cards are in the hunt in the NL Central. He’s an all-star but he’s not in the game.

 

And there is no Ryan Howard. Oh, spare me. Howard leads the National League in home runs and RBI. He’s the biggest run producer in the NL, but he’s not in the game. First time since Hank Bauer in 1945, that the league’s No. 1 homer and RBI man is not in the all-star game. That’s just stupid. Idiot Clint Hurdle and his National League pretenders deserve to lose tonight’s game.

 

You can also go on about Placido Palanco, Mike Mussina, Xavier Nady, Magglio Ordonez and Jermaine Dye, but that’s just picking nits. The fact is, while baseball’s all-star game is the best of a mediocre lot, it loses what lustre it has left when some of the real all-stars are off playing golf.